Mayor Ted Wheeler has made good on his promise to beef up the Portland Police Bureau. His proposed city budget, released today, includes an additional $5 million for new officers.
In theory, the money would be used to hire 43 additional officers. In reality, it will take at least two years for the bureau to make the hires. So, it will find other things to do with the annual windfall in the meantime.
The decision is not a surprise. The mayor’s office telegraphed its intentions to spend most of its $6.5 million in free discretionary funds on new cops back in a January memo, which cautioned city bureaus to not submit requests for new funding.
Overall, the mayor’s proposal to spend $261.7 million on the bureau in the next fiscal year is a 6% rise from last year’s spending.
Among the expenditures is $350,000 for District Attorney Mike Schmidt’s new retail and car theft task forces, and $1 million to continue last year’s pilot of a stolen vehicle recovery program in the East Precinct.
It is not immediately clear from the Mayor’s budget where the additional $5 million windfall will be allocated this year, although budgets for two umbrella programs—“Standards & Accountability” and “Enterprise Support”—have been expanded significantly from the bureau’s original request.
A bureau spokesperson pointed out that the bureau is trying to fill 58 officer vacancies. “We continue to recruit and hire new officers, so this funding will go a long way in helping us to reach that goal,” the spokesperson said.
In a video accompanying a press release, Mayor Wheeler trumpeted his commitment to hiring more cops. He noted that he’d promised to hire 300 new officers. “Ten months into this work, we’ve already hired over 120 positions,” he said. The bureau currently has 805 sworn members out of a total 882 authorized under the proposed budget.
“Our rates of gun violence incidents are on a downward trend,” Wheeler said. “We’re encouraged by that progress; we’re continuing to invest in programs that help keep our community safe.”
The budget now goes to the Portland City Council. A public hearing is scheduled for May 11 at 6:30 pm.